The rise of the Online Program Manager

August Issue

CAPDM Newsletter


CAPDM Discussion

The rise of the Online Program Manager

Dear Reader,

We have been working with universities and professional associations for 25 years, developing their businesses in online distance learning (ODL). It’s been exciting, very rewarding for our clients, but a hard slog.

However, ODL suddenly seems to be a priority for many institutions judging by the spate of open tenders that have cropped up recently. They have spawned a new phrase – Online Program Managers (OPMs) – and a rash of such companies offering to develop online courses and recruit students. We at CAPDM obviously didn’t have the nous to coin this phrase for ourselves all these years ago!

What does an OPM offer?

This article from e-Literate shows the various business models – from ‘revenue sharing’ to ‘fee for service’. ODL is mature in some universities, but new for latecomers now forced to look for non-traditional growth and income opportunities. Irrespective of which camp your university might be in, surely ODL is just an extension of educational delivery, and hence an activity that a university should be competent at?

The revenue sharing model

This an odd model for universities, is it not? Long term, surely a university should embrace ODL and fully integrate it into normal practice? It makes no sense to be giving up a significant part, and perhaps the majority, of the income from ODL to an OPM. The ‘revenue share’ approach outsources the often unrecognised capabilities of key staff for no real benefit.

A fee for service model

This approach has short-term benefits, particularly if the explicit goal is to learn necessary skills from the service provider and to get to market quickly. Even student recruitment should be an internal focus as institutions gear up to fight for market share in the online world.

CAPDM turns out to be the right OPM?

CAPDM’s extensive experience and capabilities mean that we fit neatly – and willingly – into the latter model. This may not satisfy the big OPMs looking for a long term, 10 year revenue sharing deal, but it has to be the model that suits the universities? One recent tender we replied to explicitly stated that an Exit Strategy would be discussed on day one. We would expect this.

As a final warning, from our experience there is a tendency for OPMs to design and develop ‘lowest common denominator’ online learning. This could be because it costs less, though many OPMs set rates that we could only dream of. However it is often because their idea of an online pedagogy is weak, partly because they design for a range of learning environments. There is a big difference between learning environments: most support administration; a few truly support learning.

At Moodle Moot UK this year we heard a phrase that really rang true: “Moodle can be bent to support the way you want to teach”. A powerful statement and a differentiator of learning environments.

Beware OPMs bearing gifts. Take control of your ODL business – and the way you teach. CAPDM can help you build your business – for you to control.

Please do get in touch to see how we can help you.

Email me now.

Ken Currie
Director, CAPDM Ltd.


About the author
Ken Currie has been working with universities for over 25 years developing their strategies and businesses in online distance learning (ODL). In the early 1990s, he was the key designer/developer of the globally successful Heriot-Watt online MBA and undergraduate Management Programme, and has continued to develop ODL businesses with other institutions in the UK and beyond. In recent times he helped to initiate ‘Global Online’ at Edinburgh Napier, and the ‘One World’ MBA at West of Scotland universities, and currently works closely with the University of London’s International Academy.


CAPDM Case Study

Transnational Online Education

University West of Scotland

Our involvement in building a coherent content domain for UWS’ MBA, incorporating recognised texts from a number of the big publishers.

CAPDM Case Study

A New World Class

Edinburgh Napier University

How we helped ENU build their Global Online programme, which is now supporting over 1,000 students worldwide.

This newsletter was originally sent by CAPDM Ltd. on the 01. August 2017.

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